Overall, I think I used computers a little less this week than usual this term. Various reasons come to mind: I did not do any CS 492 Assignment 492 peer evaluations; my girlfriend had been bugging me somewhat about how much time I spend online (and she has a point); I only had one assignment to do using a computer (except the 15 minutes for one question for CS 457, much of which involved me learning enough REXX to do it); and, my general awareness of my computer usage was increased due to self-monitoring. One other anomaly is the extra time spent on work related activities. Most weeks, I spend no computer time at all on these.

Past Terms

Compared to past terms, I am using computers in different ways. Probably the biggest difference this term is that I have very little programming to do. The one class which requires some is CS 457, but of the four assignments, only two require programming, and (the third at least) requires little of it. On the other hand, I am doing much more english writing than this term than I have in a long time. Much of this is due to CS 492 of course, but the rest of my courses have an impact as well. Another aspect which is different is the development of my catchup ritual. The CSCMud part of it is relatively new, and the newsgroups I read have fluctuated with the amount of free time I think I have. The difference this term is one of consistency - I find myself catching up far more regularly and completely than I previously have. Finally, one thing that is completely different this term than any previous terms, is that I am living with my girlfriend. As mentioned above, this has had some impact on my computer usage.


My computer use is effective. This may sound odd, given that 38% of my computer usage during this week was doing catchup, which is not terribly productive. I think the relevant issue though, is what I want the effect of my computer usage to be. Certainly I want to be productive, but that is not the only thing I want. I also want to learn, to develop and maintain relationships, and to enjoy my life.

The primary purpose of my catchup ritual is comfort. It gives me satisfaction to know that I have caught up on my online activities. I realise that this is most likely a self-perpetuating thing, such that the only reason I feel good about catching up, is that I so often do so. The fact remains that it does bring me pleasure, and therefore is effective in its primary purpose. It does have other, secondary purposes of maintaining relationships and learning, and it fulfils these as well. CSCMud is the venue of my most frequent and voluminous communication with a particular friend, otherwise with whom I would probably be somewhat more out of touch. Email fulfils this purpose as well, by maintaining occasional contact with various friends and family. Newsgroups fulfil the goal of learning, as I have chosen several to read for the purpose of learning about things which interest me (and they do in fact help me do so).

Ignoring work related activities (due to their anomalous nature), the rest of my time is fairly evenly spread out between Personal, CSC, and Course. All of the Personal activity was effective (except maybe the 1 minute on Sunday when I was not thinking (see the activity immediately following)), because in each case its purpose (ie. intended effect) was to fulfil a particular personal desire or goal, and in each case it did just that. The CSC activities were effective, with the exception of Sunday 16:46.6-17:00, during which time I accomplished basically nothing. The rest of the time was spent doing various things that help the club run smoothly, which I consider time well spent. The Course activities were also effective. Since I have not written anything substantial with pen and paper for about a decade, I do not consider a comparison with that method possible or useful. My writing style has evolved to reflect the medium with which I work. P. Ragde noted in his comments on my resubmission of Assignment 4 that my first draft is as polished as it gets. For obvious reasons, this appears to be the case, but I would argue that appearances are very misleading. There is no such thing as "my first draft". In any case, I believe my writing style to be effective in getting the required work done to acceptable quality in relatively short order. Were high marks more important to me, I would take more time to revise and polish. In terms of the small programming use I put my computer to for Course activities, it was fairly effective. It would have taken me longer to perform the calculations with a calculator, and longer still to do so manually. As it was, I learned enough of the language at hand to do the job more quickly, and ended up with the extra knowledge to boot.


It would be easy to conclude that computers are effective in my own life. Most of the tasks I set out to do with them are accomplished. The amount of time I spend using them is reasonably low, (especially compared to most of my classmates... my god, what a bunch of geeks!), so it would seem that I accomplish what I need fairly efficiently. I am not convinced though. I always feel like the interface I am using is slowing me down, and that there has got to be a better way. I have made my login sequence as fast as I can (F7-F12 on my Wyse), and yet I still rail against the time it takes. I have four windows accessible simultaneously, and yet I still long for a larger monitor. I am never more than 10 minutes away from an internet connection, and yet I still wish for a terminal right here. I have trained myself to use an 80x24 text terminal for all possible tasks, and I think this has helped my efficiency, by enforcing a general "function over form" mindset with respect to computers. My usage tracking has at least confirmed that the training has been successful (since at least 82% of my usage is on an 80x24 text terminal). The effectiveness of this in improving my efficiency is harder to judge, but from a fairly subjective perspective, I believe that I spend less time doing unproductive things. For instance, whenever I have worked with a GUI in the past, I have found myself spending a lot of time simply tweaking it to look pretty. With an 80x24 text terminal, there is very little tweaking to do, so that particular time-waster has been almost eliminated. I think this drive for efficiency is the reason for my dissatisfaction with the computers I use. I do not know if I will ever be satisfied with the efficiency of my computer use. I would like to think so, though it may require neural implants. Anyway, I seem to be rambling on. Suffice it to say that with much slow progress over the last several years, I believe that my computer use has evolved to the point where it is fairly effective at certain things. Having only one life to compare, I find it hard to judge whether computers are effective in my life. They have had a definite effect on my goals and aspirations, such that trying to compare where I would be without them would simply be an exercise in fantasy.



Various terms in my raw data and my summary should be explained. I have tried to include everything that might cause someone other than me to wonder.

A ritual I go through almost every time I go online. I use screen, which allows me to "detach" my session, letting it continue to run while I am logged off. This allows me to be logged on to CSCMud all the time, and a friend and I take advantage of this for casual communication. He does the same, and whenever we log on, we can scroll through everything that has been said. So the first thing I do when I log on, is catch up on the mud. Then, I catch up on all of the newsgroups I read. Finally, I catch up on my personal email.
UW Computer Science Club
Do {www,vp}
I am the Vice President and WWW Maintainer for the CSC, so these refer to performing tasks (online) related to these positions. Usually it means answering email.
ceo is the CSC Electronic Office. It is the software the CSC uses to keep track of members, quota sales, the library database, and various other related things. I have full access to the software.
An original set of rules I made, keep, and sometimes follow
update porn
When I get a piece of porn I particularly like, I edit it for spelling, grammar, and style, so that I will like it even more in the future.
batch aliases
A mechanism I use in DOS to make aliases work approximately the same way, whether I use or as my command shell.
Michael Cooper
My potential employer
A script that parses the output of another script, making the results available to the outside world.
The Eunuch Archive
Oxford English Dictionary. oed on any undergrad machine
A Wyse 75 dumb terminal I have at home, sitting by the couch. It has a 14.4kbps modem attached, with which I dial in through IST.
A 486, 33Mhz PC, running DOS. It has a 28.8kbps modem attached. I usually just use it to dial in through IST (with Telix), but this week I also used the REXX interpreter (built in to PC DOS 7) to do a series of calculations for CS 457 assignment 2.
A Pentium 133 PC, running MS Windows 95. It has a 56kbps modem, and an inkjet printer. This is my girlfriend K's computer, which I use when I need a graphical web browser or a printer while I am at home.
peri@CSC A dual Pentium III 450 PC, running Debian GNU/Linux. Used as a workstation and server. A 17" trinitron monitor and excellent seating make it the most popular terminal the CSC owns
inate@CSC A DECStation 5000/33, running NetBSD. It has a 19" trinitron monitor, and serves as an X Terminal, but is on the slow side.
A Wyse 99 dumb terminal connected serially to It provides ssh access to various CSC machines.

Newsgroups I Read

  5. uw.campus-news
  6. uw.math.mathsoc
  7. uw.math.ugrad
  8. uw.cs.ugrad
  9. uw.cs.cs492
  10. uw.cs.cs457
  11. uw.clubs.watsfic
  12. uw.clubs.ultimate
  13. uw.polaris
  14. uw.general
  15. uw.mfcf.system
  16. uw.mfcf.suggestions
  17. uw.mfcf.hardware
  18. uw.mfcf.questions
  23. uw.netapp.sysadmin
  24. uw.os2-users
  25. rec.humor.funny
  26. rec.humor.funny.reruns
  28. comp.os.qnx
  29. uw.qnx
  30. uw.linux
  31. comp.sys.amiga.announce
  32. rec.arts.erotica
  33. soc.sexuality.general
  34. alt.polyamory
  37. rec.arts.sf.announce
  38. rec.arts.sf.written
  39. alt.sysadmin.recovery

I do not read the last seven groups per se. On CSCMud, a friend often points out articles that he finds interesting in groups he reads, and these are the groups that they usually come from. It is simply more convenient to keep them in my .newsrc than to subscribe/unsubscribe on demand. This adds very slightly to the time I take catching up on news, since it takes an extra two keystrokes per group.

Data Gathering

My data gathering technique was to keep a pen and paper handy at each computer I used, and jot down certain events. A couple of times I missed getting something down, (Monday 14:22, 17:09, Wednesday 14:02.5), so I have had to make educated guesses at the missing information (how much time spent on each activity). The information I logged was: Date, Time, Computer, event comment. Once all the information was collected, I split my activities into five types: Catchup, Personal, CSC, Course, Work. I then calculated the time taken during each activity, and entered this number in the appropriate column in my table. Certain activities which took times which were too short to reliably measure, or be statistically significant, were not counted (eg. Thursday 17:28.5 is counted entirely as Personal, since printing the STV 100 midterm outline took only a few extra seconds). I started and ended data gathering at noon on Saturday. It really was just a coincidence that I did not use a computer the first afternoon/evening, or the last morning. If any terms in the table do not make sense to you, check the glossary, and hopefully it will be there.

Data Summary

Over the week, I spent 813 minutes using a computer. I spent 307 minutes (38%) on catchup, 165 minutes (20%) on personal activities, 144 minutes (18%) on CSC activities, 152 minutes (19%) on course activities, and 45 minutes (6%) on work-related activities. I spent 502 minutes (62%) on my Wyse at home, 105 minutes (13%) on my 486 at home, 28 minutes (3%) at K's computer at home, 81 minutes (10%) on peri at the CSC, 59 minutes (7%) on the Wyse at the CSC, and 38 minutes (5%) on inate at the CSC.

For you lazy types, here are some nice little tables with all that information:


Raw Data

TimeLocationCommentTimes (Minutes)
12:12.5Wyse@homeCheck OED1
16:46.5Work on ceo13.5
17:28Go (backing up ceo)15.5
18:09Wyse@homeNot thinking1
18:20K@homePrint tv.html, CS 492 Ass. 5, porn10
10:33Work on CS 492 Ass. 424
11:21Wyse@homeWork on CS 492 Ass. 445.5
14:22Wyse@homeCatchup, reply to Michael Cooper1039.5
17:09Wyse@homeCatchup, make wwwcomics, do www101520
11:48Wyse@homewww (quote board)23
5 minute pause
17:56.5vp (first time)18
23:57Edit porn18.5
11:43486@homeDownload porn, update myrules.txt23
14:02.5Wyse@homeCatchup, check uw.cs.cs4571526
22:20486@homeCS457 Ass. 2, Ques. 1 (local)15
12:37486@homeFix batch aliases (local)7
13:38Wyse@homeMail Michael Cooper5.5
17:28.5K@homePrint STV 100 midterm outline, check euarch new stuff9.5
07:37K@homePrint CS 492 RPE 4 position papers8.5
08:40CS 492 RPE 3 Peer Eval33
09:13Read comics13

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